(WACO, Texas) – This fall at Texas State Technical College, there are four female students taking the Automotive Plastic and Sheet Molded Compound Repair class. This makes Kayla Walsh, a first-semester student in the Auto Collision and Management Technology program from Arvada, Colorado, very happy.
“Females are more detail-oriented,” she said. “It’s breaking that barrier.”
Walsh and her classmates worked in a recent lab using two-sided structural bumper covers that included several steps to clean, taper, sand and apply adhesive.
Walsh had never done this kind of work before enrolling at TSTC’s Waco campus. She said in high school, she knew she wanted to go to a technical college but also wanted to leave Colorado. She got into the car and truck scene where she lived and liked seeing the transformations made on vehicles. Texas appealed to her, so she did research online and came across TSTC and the program in which she ultimately chose to study.
“It was the only college I toured, and I loved it,” Walsh said. “Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. We are here to learn.”
After graduation, Walsh said she wants to paint semitrucks and work in a repair shop, hopefully in Texas.
Jannifer Stimmel, an instructor in TSTC’s Auto Collision and Management Technology program, said she is always happy to see females in her classes. She said she has noticed more prospective female students touring the program. Stimmel is also a graduate of the program.
According to Zippia.com, a career expert website, there are more than 72,500 collision repair technicians at work in the United States, with the average age being 43.9. Only 6% of the workers are women, according to the website.
Walsh’s classmate, first-semester Auto Collision and Management Technology student Hayden Lipscomb, of Lockhart, said he enjoys the diversity in his classes.
Unlike Walsh, Lipscomb had experience in refinishing after taking classes in high school and working on his truck. But he said there is always something new to learn to help shape what he wants to do after graduation. His plan is to do metal work and custom fabrication after college.
“Technical colleges are definitely the way to go,” Lipscomb said.
Stimmel said her students have a range of experience walking into the program, from those who have never touched any of the tools of the trade to those who already know the basics of refinishing and collision work.
Automotive body and related repairers can make a yearly median salary of more than $43,000 in Texas, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop website.
TSTC offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Auto Collision and Management Technology with specializations in repair and refinishing, along with a repair specialization co-op and Certificates of Completion in Auto Collision Refinishing and Auto Collision Repair.
For more information, go to tstc.edu.